A home to go to after a long prison sentence
Our client had been convicted of conspiracy to rob and was serving a sixteen year prison sentence. Housing Benefit is not available for those spending over 13 weeks in custody. His family were for the time being paying the rent and looking after his council flat. Unsurprisingly his landlord Westminster City Council sought possession. They argued that the length of his sentence meant he could no longer occupy the premises as his main or principal home.
When possession proceedings were issued, Moss & Co argued that there was a defence. This particular set of circumstances had been covered before in the case of Amoah -v- Barking & Dagenham LBC All ER (D) 138 (Jan). In that case, the tenant had been sentenced to 12 years for GBH with intent and the council attempted to obtain a possession order due to non-occupation. The Judge in that case held that where someone had been sentenced to a significant period in prison, this created the presumption that possession had been given up however it was held that the presumption could be challenged. The judge held that the factors to be taken into account were:
- Is there someone else currently in occupation as a caretaker?
- Is the rent being paid?
- Where are the tenant’s personal possessions?
- What evidence is there of the tenant’s intention to return?
We also argued that the Court should also take into account the prospect of early release on licence of up to half the sentence. Eighteen months already served on remand would also have to be deducted as should the prospect of even earlier release on a tag.
The Council counter-argued that it was reasonable to make an order for possession as 2017 was the earliest that the Defendant would be released from prison. Further given the severity of his offence they should be entitled to a possession order.
We negotiated with the council who agreed that they would provide accommodation on release providing our client gave up possession of his current home. Our client agreed as he was pleased to have the security of knowing that he would be housed on release.
Long prison sentences do not have to mean being homelessness on release providing arrangements can be made to pay the rent and care for the premises or agreement negotiated with the social landlord.
- For sentences of 26 weeks a prisoner will serve 13 weeks or less in prison
- For sentences up to 12 months prisoners may be released in 13 weeks if they qualify for a tag and home curfew. Always claim housing benefit even if you are not sure of early release.